Skylon 'spaceplane economics stack up'
The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency, was led by Reaction Engines Limited of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space. It looked closely at how an operator of the UK-conceived vehicle might meet the demands of its market. Those requirements would be primarily to lift telecoms satellites high above the equator.
These are the sorts of jobs the Ariane 5 rocket does today, and which Ariane 6, currently under discussion among European governments, may do from the early 2020s onwards. Skylon is not in that discussion space at the moment - but it may get there at some point in the future if further technical studies prove positive and the financing can be found to push the concept forward.
The Skylon-based European Launch Service Operator (S-ELSO) study examined some of the hardware the vehicle would need to place satellites in orbit, and aspects of the economic model that would allow the operator to turn a profit. It even looked at how the vehicle could work out of Kourou in French Guiana - Europe's spaceport.
In all the areas the study considered, it found positive outcomes. The report was intended to provide Esa with the information it needs to help evaluate what would be a completely different way for Europe to go about its launcher business.
Reaction Engines Limited